On March 23rd the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ushered in many changes to the provision of health care in the United States. What do these changes mean for the women of California?
This article is the first in a series of three examining this issue.
Preventative care is a big emphasis in the new law, and for good reason. Not only is it cheaper to prevent illness than treat disease, but preventative care results in fewer missed days from work and saves lives.
What is the ultimate preventative care tool? Breastfeeding. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (H.R. 3590) recognizes breastfeeding as an important preventative health care tool. Previously, there was no federal legislation protecting a women’s right to pump breast milk while at work. Some employers allowed breaks to pump in states with no protection while others did not. In states without the legal protection women have been fired for pumping at work.
Companies are making a bad financial decision not allowing their breastfeeding employees time to pump. A breast fed baby is less likely to suffer from bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and ear infections. Sick babies lead to a mother’s absence from work as well as higher health care costs for those companies providing health insurance. The additional health care services required by formula fed babies in a 1998 study averaged about $400 a year. That is approximately $530 today, allowing for inflation. Lost worker productivity further increases the expense to the employer.
Breastfeeding is also a preventative health care tool for women, as it lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Breastfeeding is also cheaper. The extra calories required to breast feed cost about $300 a year versus $1,200 for a one year supply of powdered formula.
The new law will not change things for women in California. The California labor code 1030 et seq. (2001) provides that all employers need to allow a break and a room for a mother who desires to express milk.
What do local moms think of the new law? Marcy, a Silicon Valley mom, was thrilled to hear the health care bill would provide women all across the country with pumping breaks at work. She says “it seems ridiculous that women could lose their jobs for doing this simple thing that everyone knows is so good for babies. It’s part of the double standard for mothers– you must breastfeed or risk being labeled a “bad mom”, but damned if you can find the time or place or resources to actually do so.”
What remains to be seen is if politicians who plan to run on the platform of repealing the Health Care Reform Act think women should not be allowed federal protection to breastfeed at work?
Will protecting a woman’s right to pump at work affect how you vote in the next election?
Check back tomorrow for part two for an evaluation of the health care reform act on gender profiling in health care.
For more information on breastfeeding: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/
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- Breastfeeding and prematurity
- The paid parental leave act: examining the benefits